[Originally from a Facebook Post by Jeff Bent]
I would like to comment on the KRQE News 13 segment on my father, Wayne Bent, who is currently incarcerated at the Penitentiary of New Mexico.
This segment was, at the very least, a poorly researched and produced news story, containing a number of factual inaccuracies that could have been corrected had some attention been devoted to a fact-based news report. Instead, KRQE chose to demonize my father and sensationalize his case. This incites the public and puts my father’s life in danger while in prison. These methods are simply unethical and wrong, and merit a response from me.
The record shows my dad did not “molest two girls.” He was acquitted on the count of sexual contact pertaining to one of the girls. My father’s acquittal on this count goes unmentioned by KRQE. Instead, he is portrayed as a molester of two girls, which is simply false. He was convicted on a theory that he violated the bodily integrity of one of the girls. The state abandoned the theory of sexual motivation during the trial.
The young lady upon whom my father was convicted for sexual contact stated in a deposition in 2010 that the event in 2006 was a healing exercise and “had nothing to do with molestation.” Portions of this videotaped deposition were broadcast by KOAT in 2011, so it is not unknown in the public domain that there are strong protests against the outcome of this case, both by the alleged “victims” and by members of my father’s church and his family.
Both girls denied they were touched sexually, at my father’s 2008 trial and as recently as April 27th, 2015, under oath before a judge in Taos. They are not happy with the outcome of the trial. They both feel my dad has been unfairly treated by the criminal justice system in New Mexico. They have felt anguish over his long incarceration. This testimony is in the public record, and if KRQE was interested in real reporting, they wouldn’t have to look too hard to find it.
My father did not have “a few more years” to serve in prison when the judge decided to send him home for medical treatment. He was already eligible for parole next year, and at the most he stands to save about 18 months in custody, trading it instead for “intensive supervised probation” on the outside, with a number of stringent requirements. He will be on a short leash and will not by any means be a free man.
After a seven year battle within the legal system, involving a lot of time and effort by my dad’s attorney and the expense of a lot of money from me, my family and my friends, this recent court decision slightly reducing my dad’s time in prison is hardly a victory of any kind. It is a pittance, a scrap from the judge’s table, but I’ll take it. We’ll call it good and go home.
Last summer I had concerns for my dad’s ability to survive his prison ordeal. He became violently ill with a flu or some other kind of virus. A skin cancer, near his left ear, that was left untreated for years, had been growing and bleeding aggressively for several months, invading his left ear canal and threatening his life. My family and I petitioned the prison to provide medical treatment. Finally, in August of last year my dad had an 11 hour surgery at UNM to remove this cancer. This surgery was successful, but resulted in the major disfigurement of the left ear and side of his head.
Because of this major surgery his left ear canal collapsed and closed up with scar tissue, which requires another surgery to reopen, to save that ear, and to remediate some of his disfigurement. This surgery is supposed to be performed soon. My dad was taken to UNM on the 4th for a PET scan to see if any cancer is in his body, and it is my belief the surgery is next.
My father, who is now 74 years of age and has had no previous interaction with the criminal justice system, except for a traffic offense as a young man, has been in the state penitentiary for a little over seven years straight now. Over what? “Over nothing,” to borrow the words of the young lady in her 2010 deposition, with tears streaming down her face.
This case stinks of the vindictiveness of a system that had already predetermined the outcome of my father’s trial before it even started. Yes, I believe Judge Gerald Baca aided the prosecution in this case in a number of instances. He is not a fair judge. My dad’s conviction on the one count of sexual contact was and remains a complete miscarriage of justice – a travesty.
I researched and found dozens of contemporaneous New Mexico cases where authority figures such as a fire captain, a teacher, and other authority figures who were having actual sexual intercourse with their minor victims numerous times, were sentenced to highly reduced sentences, work release or simply probation. My dad’s crime was that he would not cut a plea deal with the state, but sought to prove his innocence and vindicate his own character. He fought for his church, and refused to relinquish his faith or his testimony. He has paid a dear price for that. He will continue to pay after he is home.
UPDATE 1/7/16 6:22 PM: The video of this segment has been removed from the KRQE website and the following message now appears above the article:
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Bent was found guilty of molesting two girls. This story has been corrected to state that Bent was found guilty of one of the two charges of criminal sexual contact.